“All sentient beings are Buddhas,
But they are covered by temporary obscurations.”
– Hevajra Tantra
In this talk we investigate the power of belief: of how we view our worthiness, how that can affect our spiritual path, and ultimately whether or not we awaken.
Transcription of “Be Buddha Now”
We had a nice movie night last night, watched the Dharma Brothers. In the film, they held a 10-day Vipassana Retreat at a maximum security prison in Alabama. The results were phenomenal. The power of 10-days of looking within. Today the topic is Be Buddha Now. We’re examining the mind and the belief systems of the mind.
The mind is very powerful. If we look at the five elements, we have earth, wind, fire, air, and water. These elements exist without consciousness. They don’t know nor feel. We have these elements in our body: bones resembling earth, blood resembling water, breath resembling wind, temperature resembling fire, and spaces resembling air. We can have these elements within our body yet without the mind, they can’t be recognized or known. We have the senses and sense organs- eyes, ears, tongue, skin. But without the mind we would not be able to access these senses. So as you can see, all phenomena that we process need to have mind to be perceived. The mind is so important and so powerful.
There are two elements of the mind that can be limiting factors. If everything that can be experienced has to be experienced through the mind, the mind becomes a filter system. In spirituality, there’s the analogy of water resembling the mind. It can be muddy, have ripples, be colored, or be clear. When the mind is still and clear, then we can see truth and see things as they really are. One aspect of the mind is that it can become limited in its scope: what it can see, what it believes, what it can be familiar with. Here is an excerpt from a book called Mind in the Waters and it’s about studying dolphins and whales; fascinating perspective from one of the scientists:
A Feeling of Weirdness
“In this paper I would like to discuss a very peculiar effect which we have noticed in the laboratory while working with the bottle-nosed dolphin. This effect is an example of the peculiarities of a creative process which occurs in this particular kind of scientific research, but which may also occur widely not just here. Stated tersely, if one works with the bottle-nosed dolphin day in and day out for many hours days and week, one is struck with the fact that one’s current basic assumptions and even one’s current expectations determine within certain limits the results obtained with the particular animal at the particular time.
This effect was first noticed in our work in 1955, 1957, and 1958. As I became more convinced of the neuroanatomical ties and complexities of the dolphin brain, I noticed a subtle change in my own attitude in regard to possible performances on the part of these animals. To one like myself trained in neurology, neurophysiology, and psychoanalysis, a large complex brain implies large complex capabilities and great mental sensitivity. Such capabilities and sensitivities can exist of course in forms we have not yet recognized.
The working hypothesis of advanced capability raised our index of suspicion and in turn sensitized us to new sources of information. It was a subtle preparation of the mental climate which allowed us to listen to some rather queer noises that the dolphin was producing in the laboratory, hence we reviewed them very carefully on the tapes. Because of the possibility of a very large brain capacity and because of musings about the possible areas of achievement already realized in the species but as yet undiscovered by us, our minds began to open.”
You see how he’s saying that because we started to analyze the possibility of what is possible by these animals, we began to discover things that we would have otherwise never discovered. They began to open up their minds to these possibilities.
Like us in our spiritual pursuits, we too must open up our minds to the possibility of what we might be. If we have an idea of what we are, then we cannot supersede that. We have to take off this limiting belief system. They say that we cannot recognize anything outside of our consciousness as it is. Everything is filtered through our consciousness as it is. If we look a the consciousness of infinite love, what can be experienced? What can be experienced if we actually live in this consciousness?
We know from the saints and sages, that their experience of reality is very different than our experience. I look at it as a REV limiter in a car. An engine can go 200 miles per hour, but if they put a REV limiter on it, then that constricts the motor’s ability to go beyond that RPM and reach that speed. Sometimes, if you’re driving really fast, the car will start to stutter. This is because it’s bouncing off the REV limiter, which is actually retarding the spark of the electronic system and the car cannot reach its full potential. If you take of the REV limiter, that same vehicle may be able to go 200 miles per hour. We know we are these grand expansive beings yet we have a self imposed rev limiter. We have these limiting factors.
A lot of times we hear stories of awakening where the teacher says, “You know you are the Buddha, you are Christ, you are Krishna.” Sometimes the student believes that whole-heartedly. This is one aspect of the mind that we have to be very careful with. Buddha sat down to say, “That’s it, I’m going to be enlightened!” He believed he could be enlightened. A lot of time we think that it will happen the next lifetime.
The second aspect is awareness itself. The mind can only become aware of things it pays attention to. We know that with the mind and with consciousness, we have the opportunity to become aware of something but not unless we put our attention there. As we sit, there are outside noises. But if we don’t place our attention on them we can’t hear them.
Have you ever been in a room with an annoying sound but you don’t hear it, but then once mentioned you can no longer block it out? The senses are already picking the information up. But you won’t register unless the mind is picking it up too. This is mindfulness. We become mindful and awake. When someone is talking but your thoughts drift to another place, it isn’t like your ears stopped hearing. You simply redirected your attention. Where we shine our attention to is most important.
Conditionally, we shine our light on what we are not, instead of what we are. We know that we are Buddha nature. Just like the mind can perceive external phenomena, awareness can perceive enlightened aspects of itself it we look. That is what meditation is. Meditation is moving from looking at our thoughts, emotions, and body sensations as what we are and instead looking into who’s looking. We cannot be what is impermanent. All the things that are arising, staying a while, and falling away cannot be us. We are looking outside-this is Samsara. When we are looking inside, this is Buddha nature. When we turn and we look, just that looking inside.
If we can look inside without any limiting beliefs. Without the meditator, without meditation…just being. This is using the mind to see Self. Looking without limiting beliefs allows us to rest in our true nature. This is how we can use the mind to see our true Self.